Guyana could learn from German elections

Dear Editor,


Regarding ‘Victorious Merkel must reach out to leftist rivals’ (SN, Sep 23), the results were hardly surprising and the advice nothing new.  I was in Germany last December and again last month with Germans telling me that they expected Merkel and her Christian Democrats to win but not have a majority to form a government. And that is now the real challenge similar to the ruling PPP’s dilemma in Guyana after the November 2011 elections. Although winning the elections and therefore earning the right to form the government and serve for a third consecutive term as Chancellor, Merkel is short of a majority to pass bills. Her ally, the Free Democrats, has failed to qualify for seats to the Bundestag just shy of the required minimum threshold of 5% for the first time in decades. Germans stuck it out with Merkel because they want to continue the stability and prosperity she has provided over the last eight years.

The outcome of the German election is instructive from a Guyanese perspective holding important lessons for us. Unlike in Guyana, where the party with the most votes forms the government, in Germany a ruling party must enjoy the support of a majority of the parliament. A person cannot be Chancellor unless he or she has the support of a majority of the Bundestag. So Merkel will have to form a coalition with the opposition – either the left wing Greens, a minor party and ally of the Social Democrats, or even a grand coalition with the leftist Social Democrats as happened between 2005 and 2009 when both major parties came up short to build a coalition to govern with smaller parties.

Neither major party may wish to link up with the xenophobic German Alternatives party, fearing a backlash from mainstream voters.  The growth of the Alternatives was not surprising given my observations of the strong anti-immigrant feelings across Germany especially against non-Whites. The Alternatives are against continued association with the Eurozone. The Christian Democrats could attempt to govern with outside support from the Alternatives but that situation would be untenable hurting more than aiding Merkel. A grand coalition between the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats seems a likely scenario, as polls were suggesting just before the vote. A huge majority of Germans told pollsters they want a grand coalition.

Another difference in the German election relating to Guyana is the quickness of the count.  Within hours, people knew the results.  In Germany, there were some 62 million voters and they all voted by paper ballots that were counted manually, and it was done efficiently in a few hours. In Guyana, it could take up to week to count less than half a million ballots – something is not right.

Also, in Germany, elections are free and fair and parties accept the results.  There is no hooliganism, booth capturing, ballot stuffing, attempts at multiple voting, voter intimidation by thugs, etc. In Guyana, it has been the norm for party or parties to harass legitimate voters and to scare people who wish to cast ballots.  Every attempt is made to seek some kind of advantage. Some parties tend to dismiss results or even reject the voters’ verdict.

Guyanese need to learn from Germany and to even consider emulating some aspects of German government formation that mandates a coalition when no party wins a majority.


Yours faithfully,
Vishnu Bisram

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